Posts Tagged ‘salt’

Brining is a simple process of soaking a hunk of protein in a flavored salt solution for a time before cooking, resulting in a much more juicy and flavorful final product.

It’s basic high school science: the brine has a greater concentration of salt and water than the molecules of the protein (in this case, a turkey) that is soaking in it. By simple diffusion, the protein molecules suck up the salty water and keep it. When you cook the meat, some of the water evaporates, but the meat still has far more moisture in it than it would have without the brine soaking, and the result is a moister, more delicious bird.

Some people use giant syringes to inject their turkeys with crazy solutions, but I think that the old way is still the best way when it comes to brining. Get a big pot, fill it with the brine, and soak the bird in it. Done.

Here’s my tried-and-true turkey brining recipe. Once the brining is done, you can cook the turkey whatever way you like best. I use a method where I grill it inside a Weber grill with charcoal. It comes out smokey and absolutely amazing. I’ll have that info in the next blog.

image

 

Ingredients:

1 gallon of water
2 onions
3 carrots
3 stalks celery
1 cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons whole allspice
4 bay leaves
1 gallon of ice water
14–15 lb turkey, thawed

Pour first gallon of water in a large pot. Quarter the onions, carrots and celery (no need to peel them) and add to the water. Add salt, black peppercorns, brown sugar, allspice, and bay leaves.

Let the pot come to a boil for a few minutes. Remove from heat and let brine cool down to room temperature.

Remove giblets from turkey and place the bird in a container just big enough to hold it and 2 gallons of liquid.

Pour the now-cooled brine over the turkey, then pour in the gallon of ice water.

 

Make sure the turkey doesn’t float up by placing a plate on top. Put turkey container in fridge for 5 to 8 hours, flipping the turkey over in the container halfway through.

Drain turkey, pat dry with paper towels, and then cook using your favorite recipe.

Next time: cooking your turkey on a Weber grill in a fraction of the time.

St. Patrick’s Day is about 3 weeks away…just in time to make your own corned beef!

It takes about 3 weeks to make corned beef, but it’s not difficult to do. Doing it yourself gives you a better quality product than that nasty slab from the supermarket that is full of chemicals and preservatives.

Corned beef has nothing to do with corn. ‘Corning’ is a technique for preserving raw meats for long periods by soaking it in salt brine. This method was used before the days of commercial refrigeration. Back then, the large salt kernels used in the brine were called “corns.”

Brining is a time-honored way of preserving and it prevents bacteria from growing. Both pastrami and corned beef are made by this method. Both corned beef and pastrami usually start with a brisket of beef. Corned beef is then cooked–usually boiled–and served. Pastrami is made when the brined meat is rubbed  with more spices and smoked to add extra flavor. So corned beef and pastrami are the same meat, just treated differently.

Saltpeter is an ingredient that has been used in brining beef for years. It adds the traditional red coloring to the corned beef and pastrami meat. But since saltpeter can also contain carcinogens, I leave it out. The meat may not be the usual bright red color, but the flavor and texture of the meat will not be affected.

Brining the beef brisket

Brining the beef brisket

Step one: corned beef…

Ingredients:
beef brisket (about 8-10 pounds)
2 tsp. paprika
1/4 cup warm water
3 cloves of minced garlic
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon mixed pickling spices
3/4 cup salt
2 quarts water

Place the brisket in a large container made of non-reactive material, like glass or plastic.

In the 1/4 cup of warm water, dissolve the sugar, minced cloves, paprika and pickling spices.

Dissolve the 3/4 cup of salt in the 2 quarts of water. Pour in the sugar/garlic/paprika/pickling spices mix and stir everything together. Pour the mixture over the meat in the container. Make sure the meat is totally beneath the surface of the liquid. (You may need to weigh it down to do this.) Cover the container.

Refrigerate the container and contents for 3 weeks, turning the meat once or twice per week. At the end of the third week, remove the container from the refrigerator and take out the meat. Soak the meat in several changes of fresh cold water over a period of 24 hours to remove the excess salt.

At this point, if you want corned beef, prepare and cook it using your favorite recipe. But I’m all about the pastrami!

Step two: making Pastrami…

pastrami

Ingredients:

Brined and rinsed corned beef brisket from above recipe, patted dry with paper towels

1/4 cup Kosher salt

1/4 cup paprika

3 tablespoons coriander seeds

2 tablespoons black peppercorns

2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds

1 tablespoon white peppercorns

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon granulated garlic

Combine coriander seeds, black and white peppercorns and mustard seeds in a spice grinder and grind coarsely. Place in a bowl. Add salt, paprika, brown sugar and granulated garlic. Mix well.

Rub the mix into the brisket well, covering all sides.

Heat smoker to 225 degrees and smoke for several hours using a less intense wood, like oak. When the internal temperature of the meat has reached 165 degrees, it’s done. It isn’t necessary to smoke pastrami as long as you would a regular brisket because the long brining time makes the meat tender.

It is very important that absolutely everything that comes in contact with the meat is very clean. (This includes your hands.) Also, make very sure that every inch of the meat reaches the 165 degrees before it is removed from the smoker. The corned beef is now pastrami.

Brining is a simple process of soaking a hunk of protein in a flavored salt solution for a time before cooking, resulting in a much more juicy and flavorful final product.

It’s basic high school science: the brine has a greater concentration of salt and water than the molecules of the protein (in this case, a turkey) that is soaking in it. By simple diffusion, the protein molecules suck up the salty water and retain it. When you cook the meat, some of the water evaporates, but the meat still has far more moisture in it than it would have without the brine soaking, and the result is a moister, delicious bird.

Some people use giant syringes to inject their turkeys with crazy solutions, but I think that the old way is still the best way when it comes to brining. Get a big pot, fill it with the brine, and soak the bird in it. Done.

Here’s my tried-and-true turkey brining recipe. Once the brining is done, you can cook the turkey whatever way you like best. I use a method where I grill it inside a Weber grill with charcoal. It comes out smokey and absolutely amazing. I’ll have that info in the next blog.

Ingredients:

1 gallon of water
2 onions
3 carrots
3 stalks celery
1 cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1.5 teaspoons whole allspice
4 bay leaves
1 gallon of ice water
14–15 lb turkey, thawed

Pour first gallon of water in a large pot. Quarter the onions, carrots and celery (no need to peel them) and add to the water. Add all the other ingredients, except ice water and turkey.

Let the pot come to a boil for a few minutes. Remove from heat and let brine cool down to room temperature.

Remove giblets from turkey and place the bird in a container just big enough to hold it and 2 gallons of liquid.

Pour the now-cooled brine over the turkey, then pour in the gallon of ice water.

Make sure the turkey doesn’t float up by placing a plate on top. Put turkey container in fridge for 5 to 8 hours, flipping the turkey over in the container halfway through.

Drain turkey, pat dry with paper towels, and then cook using your favorite recipe.

Next time: cooking your turkey on a Weber grill in a fraction of the time.

It takes about 3 weeks to make corned beef, but it’s not difficult to do. Doing it yourself gives you a better quality product than that nasty slab from the supermarket that is full of chemicals and preservatives.

Corned beef has nothing to do with corn. ‘Corning’ is a technique for preserving raw meats for long periods by soaking it in salt brine. This method was used before the days of commercial refrigeration. Back then, the large salt kernels used in the brine were called “corns.”

Brining is a time-honored way of preserving and it prevents bacteria from growing. Both pastrami and corned beef are made by this method. Both corned beef and pastrami usually start with a brisket of beef. Corned beef is then cooked–usually boiled–and served. Pastrami is made when the brined meat is rubbed  with more spices and smoked to add extra flavor. So corned beef and pastrami are the same meat, just treated differently.

Saltpeter is an ingredient that has been used in brining beef for years. It adds the traditional red coloring to the corned beef and pastrami meat. But since saltpeter can also contain carcinogens, I leave it out. The meat may not be the usual bright red color, but the flavor and texture of the meat will not be affected.

Brining the beef brisket

Brining the beef brisket

Step one: corned beef…

Ingredients:
beef brisket (about 8-10 pounds)
2 tsp. paprika
1/4 cup warm water
3 cloves of minced garlic
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon mixed pickling spices
3/4 cup salt
2 quarts water

Place the brisket in a large container made of non-reactive material, like glass or plastic.

In the 1/4 cup of warm water, dissolve the sugar, minced cloves, paprika and pickling spices.

Dissolve the 3/4 cup of salt in the 2 quarts of water. Pour in the sugar/garlic/paprika/pickling spices mix and stir everything together. Pour the mixture over the meat in the container. Make sure the meat is totally beneath the surface of the liquid. (You may need to weigh it down to do this.) Cover the container.

Refrigerate the container and contents for 3 weeks, turning the meat once or twice per week. At the end of the third week, remove the container from the refrigerator and take out the meat. Soak the meat in several changes of fresh cold water over a period of 24 hours to remove the excess salt.

At this point, if you want corned beef, prepare and cook it using your favorite recipe. But I’m all about the pastrami!

Step two: making Pastrami…

pastrami

Ingredients:

Brined and rinsed corned beef brisket from above recipe, patted dry with paper towels

1/4 cup Kosher salt

1/4 cup paprika

3 tablespoons coriander seeds

2 tablespoons black peppercorns

2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds

1 tablespoon white peppercorns

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon granulated garlic

Combine coriander seeds, black and white peppercorns and mustard seeds in a spice grinder and grind coarsely. Place in a bowl. Add salt, paprika, brown sugar and granulated garlic. Mix well.

Rub the mix into the brisket well, covering all sides.

Heat smoker to 225 degrees and smoke for several hours using a less intense wood, like oak. When the internal temperature of the meat has reached 165 degrees, it’s done. It isn’t necessary to smoke pastrami as long as you would a regular brisket because the long brining time makes the meat tender.

It is very important that absolutely everything that comes in contact with the meat is very clean. (This includes your hands.) Also, make very sure that every inch of the meat reaches the 165 degrees before it is removed from the smoker. The corned beef is now pastrami.

It’s all about the salt.

I fell in love with Fleur de Sel, the rare hand-raked salt, several years ago. I’ve got high blood pressure, and unfortunately, I need to limit my intake of salt. So my discovery of “finishing salts” allows me to cook completely without salt until the very end, where I can then sprinkle just a few crystals of this moist, hand-harvested miracle on my plate, enjoying every tiny burst of salty ocean flavor without a lot of guilt.

Inspired by an episode of “No Reservations” where Anthony Bourdain journeyed to Brittany, my wife and I dreamed of traveling to what is arguably the epicenter of Fleur de Sel production, the small town of Guerande, France. Located on the Atlantic coast in the Pays de La Loire region just south of Brittany, it’s about a 5-hour drive from Charles de Gaulle airport outside of Paris.

A salt flat in Guerande

 

Some of the comments we read about the medieval town of Guerande said it was too touristy, but we found that it had a lot of charm: the perfect combination of old and new, with many interesting shops and eateries inside the ancient walls of this small town. Built in the 15th century and fortified in the 19th century, the surrounding wall around Guerande is one of the best preserved in all of France.

The salt marshes outside the city walls have been around a long time…the last of them built around 1800. Salt production here declined soon after, because salt was available more cheaply from salt mines. But you gotta love foodies…the influence of chefs and food lovers around the world have brought back the demand for this very special product. Salt workers now harvest about 15,000 tons of cooking salt a year, and about 300 tons of the very precious Fleur de Sel.

Worth its weight in gold!

The process is simple: the ocean tides bring the salt water in and channel it into shallow pools where the water then evaporates, leaving behind the beautiful sea salt Guerande is known for. When just a few inches of water remain, a salty crystalized film floats on the surface of the water. This is very gently hand-raked and produces the much sought after Fleur de Sel. Traditionally only women were allowed to rake this salt because it was believed they had a gentler touch.

Driving through the salt field was a wonderful experience. The roads are narrow, and wind almost endlessly through these flat marshes where salt workers spend their days raking, gathering and then bagging their precious harvest. You can stop anywhere along the way to buy your salt directly from these salt workers, which we did. It was easy to get carried away…we brought home over 20 lbs of salt! Of course, we shared it with friends. Otherwise, not only would my blood pressure have gone through the roof, but I’d probably be dealing with kidney stones as well!

Harvesting and selling salt in Guerande is a family affair.

One taste of Fleur de Sel, letting it gently melt on your tongue, and you’ll know what the big fuss is all about.

Our Fleur de Sel journey did not end in Guerande, however. After a couple of nights in that region, we headed south to the island of Ile de Re, just off the coast of La Rochelle, France. Connected by a 3km bridge, Ile de Re is a beautiful world unto itself, with an intricate network of bicycle paths that allow you to travel safely from one end of this flat island to the other, enjoying beautiful views as you ride through vineyards, salt marshes, beaches and small port towns.

As in Guerande, not only can you sample the local salt, but also the abundant supply of incredibly fresh seafood, especially their famous oysters. The salt flats seem somewhat newer in Ile de Re, but still very much a large part of the local economy. The salt itself differs in only the most subtle of ways from its Guerande counterpart and I would find it difficult to say which I liked better.

Ile de Re is long and flat, so many of the salt pools are larger than those in Guerande.

It may seem a bit silly to travel all this way for something is simple as salt. But it’s a journey I’m very happy I made…and will gladly make again in the near future.